..

The Conversation

  • Written by Samuel Alexander, Research fellow, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne
Home biogas: turning food waste into renewable energy

Last night I cooked my family a delicious pasta dinner using biogas energy. This morning we all had eggs cooked on biogas. I’m not sure what’s for dinner tonight, but I know what will provide the energy for cooking: biogas.

And not just any biogas – it’s home biogas, produced in our suburban backyard, as part of my ongoing “action research” into sustainable energy practices.

Read more: Biogas: smells like a solution to our energy and waste problems

In an age of worrying climate change and looming fossil energy decline, the benefits of biogas are obvious. It is a renewable energy source with zero net greenhouse emissions. And yet its potential has largely gone untapped, at least in the developed world.

Based on my research and experience, I contend that home-produced biogas is an extremely promising technology whose time has come. In fact, I believe it could provoke a domestic green energy revolution, if only we let it.

What is biogas?

Biogas is produced when organic matter biodegrades under anaerobic conditions (that is, in the absence of oxygen). This process produces a mixture of gases – primarily methane, some carbon dioxide and tiny portions of other gases such as hydrogen sulfide.

When the biogas is filtered to remove the hydrogen sulfide, the resulting mixture can be burned as an energy source for cooking, lighting, or heating water or space. When compressed it can be used as fuel for vehicles. On a commercial scale biogas can be used to generate electricity or even refined and fed into the gas grid.

The types of organic matter used to produce biogas include food waste, animal manure and agricultural byproducts. Some commercial systems use sewage to produce and capture biogas.

Biogas benefits

The primary benefit of biogas is that it is renewable. Whereas the production of oil and other fossil fuels will eventually peak and decline, we will always be able to make biogas as long as the sun is shining and plants can grow.

Biogas has zero net greenhouse emissions because the CO₂ that is released into the atmosphere when it burns is no more than what was drawn down from the atmosphere when the organic matter was first grown.

As already noted, when organic matter biodegrades under anaerobic conditions, methane is produced. It has been estimated that each year between 590 million and 800 million tones of methane is released into the atmosphere. This is bad news for the climate – pound for pound, methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO₂.

But in a biogas system this methane is captured and ultimately converted to CO₂ when the fuel is burned. Because that CO₂ was going to end up in the atmosphere anyway through natural degradation, biogas has zero net emissions.

There are other benefits too. The organic matter used in biogas digesters is typically a waste product. By using biogas we can reduce the amount of food waste and other organic materials being sent to landfill.

Furthermore, biogas systems produce a nutrient-rich sludge that can be watered down into a fertiliser for gardens or farms. All of this can help to develop increased energy independence, build resilience and save money.

My biogas experiment

In the spirit of scientific research, I installed one of the few home biogas systems currently available, at a cost of just over A$1,000 delivered, and have been impressed by its ease and functionality. (Please note that I have no affiliation, commercial or otherwise, with the manufacturer.)

In practical terms, I put in about 2kg of food waste each day and so far I have had enough gas to cook with, sometimes twice a day. If I ever needed more gas, I could put in more organic matter. I will continue to monitor the system as part of my research and will publish updates in due course. If interested, watch this space.

My personal motivation to explore biogas (related to my research) arises primarily from a desire to decarbonise my household’s energy use. So far, so good. We have disconnected from the conventional gas grid and now have more money to spend on projects such as expanding our solar array.

Given the alarming levels of food waste in Australia, I also like the idea of turning this waste into green energy. My neighbours kindly donate their organic matter to supplement our own inputs, increasing community engagement. When necessary I cycle to my local vegetable market and enthusiastically jump into their large food waste bin to take what I need, with permission.

They think I’m mad. But, then, I think using fossil fuels is mad.

Hurdles and hopes

Home biogas is widely produced in developing regions of the world. The World Bank and the United Nations actively encourage its use as a cheap, clean energy source. China has 27 million biogas plants.

But developed regions, including Australia, have been slow to exploit this vast potential. Given that Australia is one of the most carbon-intensive countries on Earth, this is unfortunate.

The failure to embrace home biogas is partly due to a lack of clear regulations about its use. Where is the Home Biogas Act? Almost every Australian backyard has an independent gas bottle to power the ubiquitous barbecue, so clearly storing gas in the backyard is not a problem. My biogas system came with robust safety certificates, warranties and insurance, and these systems do not feature high-pressure gas pipes.

Read more: Capturing the true wealth of Australia’s waste

Home biogas production is unusual. But I believe that state governments should draw up legislation to accommodate it, and that local councils should offer advice and assistance to householders who are interested in taking it up. Hoping for progress in this regard, I recently made a submission to the Victorian government as part of its Waste to Energy consultations.

My own carefully managed experiment demonstrates how home biogas can be used safely and successfully. Nevertheless, biogas is a combustible fuel and needs to be filtered for poisonous hydrogen sulfide. Like any fuel, it should be respected and used responsibly. But biogas need not be feared. Fossil gas is far more dangerous anyway.

Authors: Samuel Alexander, Research fellow, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne

Read more http://theconversation.com/home-biogas-turning-food-waste-into-renewable-energy-89920

Politics

George Neophytou supports roads funding and more

Independent candidate for Gippsland East George Neophytou has pledged to support completion of duplication of the Princes Highway between Traralgon and Sale and to upgrading of the Sale alternative ...

Scott Morrison interview with Alan Jones

Belt and Road Initiative; Law and order in Victoria; Queensland infrastructure; Power prices; Paris Agreement; Immigration; Negative gearing.   ALAN JONES: Prime Minister, good morning.   PRIME ...

George Neophytou a real force to stop the Fingerboards Mine

George Neophytou a solicitor contesting the election as an Independent Candidate has been an activist against the Fingerboards Mineral Sands Mine for over two years. His track record shows ability a...

Business News

Hussh

Hussh . . . The Secret is Out Your exclusive invitation to 9 massive warehouse sales this week The secret to huge savings is shopping directly from the warehouses of Australia’s biggest wholesa...

Web Wisdom - Simple Ways to Increase Sales as an e-Commerce Website

The online marketplace is a virtual paradise for consumers who love a bargain. Today’s e-commerce has become so evolved that consumers not only have purchasing power, but they also can influence maj...

Digital marketing agencies are fudging the numbers and distorting the outcomes for their clients

Many digital marketing agencies manipulate reports to make themselves look good, offering vanity stats that really provide no benefit to their clients. One of the most common mistakes companies make...

Travel

Pet-Friendly Summer Destinations in NZ

No one wants to leave their pet at home and why should you have to? When it comes to traveling around in a campervan hire New Zealand, you may not want to live your precious animal back home. You shou...

DriveMyCar

DON’T GET SLUGGED WITH THE SIX-HUNDRED-DOLLAR CHRISTMAS TAX Revealed: traditional car rental companies charging 3.3 times more to rent a vehicle over Christmas A comparison of rental costs per day...

Looking for a Romantic Destination? Here’s Why the Philippines May Be Perfect for You

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/couple-man-woman-girl-guy-love-2585328/Perhaps, you want a spot to celebrate your honeymoon after several months of wedding planning. Or, maybe you are just loo...